Swaziland has a dual system of governance characterized by the co-existence of both traditional and modern modes of life. It has a strong cultural identity, which permeates all forms of social, political and economic interaction. This has a strong bearing on the gender relations and consequently GBV.
The 16 Days of Activism Campaign has gained momentum in countries across Southern Africa and has served to raise awareness amongst ordinary citizens and governments about the high levels of gender violence in the region. However, critics are increasingly questioning its effectiveness. In 2006, the UN Secretary General Study on Violence against Women issued world wide, urged all member states to develop multi stakeholder action plans for ending gender violence.
Gender Violence in Swaziland
A study conducted in 2006, Gender Based Violence Situational Analysis (Doo Aphane and Phumelele Thwala, June 1996) which analysed the extent of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Swaziland found that levels of GBV in the Kingdom of just over one million people was "unacceptably high". This led to the development of a 12-month awareness campaign that seeks to involve men in projecting a shared national vision of a Swaziland free from Gender Based Violence. The campaign was officially launched by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs on the 13th April 2007.
The study which employed participatory methods guided by Human Rights and Social Relations approaches found that GBV incidents are escalating at an alarming rate and that urgent action needs to be taken at all levels of Swazi society. The study further corroborates what is asserted in international, regional and continental literature, that women and girls are the most vulnerable groups even though men and boys are also victims of GBV.
There was a strong indication that tradition and culture have an influence on how women and men in Swaziland conceptualise GBV. This is reinforced by the dual legal system comprising Roman Dutch Law and the Swazi Law and Custom. For example, even though female genital mutilation, trafficking of women and girls and forced pregnancy are commonly identified as GBV internationally and locally these were not raised by interviewees.
Patriarchy and systematic discrimination against females contribute to causes of GBV. A number of survivors of GBV interviewed referred to sustained incidences of GBV because of the power the perpetrators had over them as well as the powerful structures within the family which interfere in the way couples handle their relationships.
It is also clear from the study that while there are state and non-state interventions these are in need of strengthening. For example Health Care sector and Royal Swazi police need training in dealing with GBV cases. It was also observed that there was a lack of strong and emphatic response by the state. The state treats GBV as a private matter and this contributes to the serious gap in implementing appropriate interventions.
The campaign is a collaboration of the UN Gender Theme Group (UNGTG) and the NGO Gender Consortium, under the auspices of the Coordinating Assembly of Non- Governmental Organizations (CANGO). Conducted under the theme "A Swaziland Free from Gender Based Violence", the campaign seeks to build and strengthen community level awareness and involvement in the prevention of GBV through a series of community level dialogues in all four regions and a multi-media strategy.
Development of the 365 Days Programme and National Action Plan
Building on the campaign highlighted above, a workshop was convened to extend the campaign beyond awareness raising by drafting a multi sector 365 Day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence by Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), Gender and Media Southern Africa Network - Swaziland (GEMSWA) and Gender Links (GL). The Gender Unit in the Ministry of Home Affairs contributed resources in support of the workshop.
The workshop also drew on Swaziland findings in the audit of progress made in ending gender violence undertaken by country chapters of the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network in 2004, and the "IT for advocacy" training that Gender Links (GL) and GEMSA undertook in nine countries in the region in 2005.
Officially opened by the Principal Secretary, Misheck Shongwe in the Ministry of Home Affairs the workshop was attended by 24 participants. These were representatives from NGOs, CBOs, CANGO, business, media, UNDP and government departments including; the Gender Unit in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Rural Development and Youth Affairs and Swaziland Royal Police. Two survivors of GBV and one counsellor also participated in crafting the action plan.